With more than 5.4 mllion Israelis having received at least their first vaccination shot against Covid-19, and more than 5 million having the crucial second injection, every adult in Israel who wants the vaccination has received it.
Although the infection rate among Arabs in the disputed territories has been much lower than that in Israel, there is concern about the failure of the Palestinian Authority to vaccinate its population adequately, with Chezy Levy, director general of the Israeli Health Ministry calling on the government to do more to help vaccinate Palestinians.
Vaccinating Palestinians makes a great deal of sense. Israel has 10 million AstraZeneca vaccines on order, which it has already decided not to use, because the Health Ministry prefers the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives. The government has already made the point that there is no legal requirement for Israel to provide for people in the disputed territories, but the fact remains that many of the people who live there will travel to Israel at some point and it makes no sense to have an unvaccinated population on Israel's borders.
Yesterday, the UK government revealed that tourists returning to England will no longer have to quarantine, opening up Israel to holidaymakers, and it is highly likely that the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations will follow suit. Furthermore, the EU has added Israel to its list of safe countries whose travellers should face no restrictions.
However, as is often the case, there is conflict between the Health Ministry and Finance Ministry, with a 24-hour hospital strike threatened on Monday over the status of 600 extra doctors who were hired to help cope with the pandemic. Their temporary contracts expire next month and the Finance Ministry is so far refusing to renew them, or those of 1,600 nurses. This is despite the Health Ministry arguing that it needed additional staff even before the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, there are hopes that the pandemic may have a benefit in helping reduce hospital-acquired infections, due to increased focus in hygiene. According to official figures, 5-6000 deaths occur annually in Israel due to infection caught in hospitals. With infection rates now very low, Israel has fallen to 20th place for the number of coronavirus tests per million people (1,559,839), eight places below the UK (2,392,953). This compares to the disputed territories in 92nd place (340,312).
Israel remains in 61st place for deaths per million people (693 per million). The UK has fallen one place to 15th, with 1,871 deaths per million, still far higher than Israel: a testament to the heroes of Magen David Adom and all those involved in the Israeli health system. Also impressive is the statistic for the disputed territories, with only 644 deaths per million people and remaining in 65th place in the list. Both Israelis and Palestinians therefore remain much less likely to die of Covid-19 than the frequency of confirmed cases would suggest, whereas people in the UK are much more likely to die.